south to alaska

Well, I’ve been really lazy about writing. Things have been moving fast, and I just haven’t taken the time to write.

We all returned to Dawson City together from Inuvik. It was hard for me to leave Invuik. It’s a nice little town, and it’s so isolated that I felt protected there. The people there were really nice, and the tundra is beautiful. Inuvik is really somewhat forested, but the immediate area is surrounded by tundra. Dave Barry says that ‘tundra’ is an eskimo word meaning ‘nothing.’ Maybe that’s why I like it… the nothingness appeals to my zen nature.

Two vans (Dennis Gentry, and John and I) drove all the way through from Inuvik to Dawson City. We were tired of running around, so we wanted to get to Dawson so that we could set there a day. The other vans made it varying distances south, and everyone arrived the next day. Our two vans made the trip with no problems, but I heard later that there were a few flats in the other vans. More seriously, Pete and Sallye Clark lost a wheel entirely. From the looks of things, it had been running loose for a while, and eventually left the car entirely. They found the tire a few hundred feet out in the tundra, scrounged a lug nut from each of the other wheels, and continued south.

From Dawson City, the group shattered. Bus owners are free spirits, and the Inuvik was the goal holding us all together. Once we accomplished this goal, many folks went their own ways. Jack Stafford, Jorge and Yvette, the Wigleys, Tobin and Christa, John and I, the Freemans, and Dennis Gentry all drive from Dawson City to Tok, Alaska together. After that, Dennis headed north to Fairbanks.

John and I continued with the rest of the folks south to Haines Junction, Alaska. There everyone continued east, while John and I turned south to Haines.

The road to Haines is probably the most beautiful road I’ve driven on this trip. Sharp snow-capped mountains line the road, which tends to stay above the tree line. Neat Chilkat pass, John and I stopped to take photos of the glaciers. I climbed down off the road onto the tundra, and immediately noticed that the ground was covered with blueberries.

I called out to John, who scrambled down with a bowl. We squatted there a half-hour, picking blueberries, with the glorious glaciers creeping down the hillsides around us. There were billions of lush, ripe blueberries out there. I would pick in one spot for a while, and then look around. Invariably I would see another spot with even more, fatter blueberries. We almost filled the bowl, and had some of the berries in granola while waiting for the ferry the next morning.

While waiting for the ferry, we also met the Holser family. The Holsers wanted to join us for the trek to Inuvik, but their schedule didn’t work out, so they were travelling the north hoping to find us along the way. From Haines to Petersburg, we were on the same ferry. Nice folks, travelling with three kids. Dan and I played Magic with their 13-year-old, Ian. We beat him twice, but I expect that the next time we meet him he’ll kick our butts. Teenagers learn fast.

The ship stopped for three hours in Sitka, from 1:30 to 4:30 in the morning. It seems like enterprising tour operators are always waiting for the ferry to come in, 24 hours a day, and this was no exception. We paid our $10, and were hauled around Sitka for a while. We visited the Russian Orthodox Church. It was very cool, in an icons-and-ceremony sort of way. There was a painting of the Virgin Mother that was supposed to heal folks. It was a nice painting, but it didn’t do anything for my low-level depression.

Then we were off to the Raptor Repair Center, where they fixed broken eagles. They specialized in Bald Eagles, and my suspicion is that this is because they bring in the donations. They had eagle parts hanging around, like bones, feet, etc. Everything you’d need to fix your bird.

The eagles themselves, though, were magnificent. I’ve only seen a bald eagle once before, and that was at a distance. They’re BIG. Real big. And they have a very majestic, fierce, don’t-fuck-with-me look in their eyes. I can understand why the U.S. would want them for a symbol, despite what ol’ Ben Franklin thought. (He wanted us to pick the wild turkey.)

In Petersburg, we bade goodbye to the Holsers, and drove into town. Petersburg is a small Norwegian community that seems to make most of their money from fishing. The town smells fishy, and fish guts float in the water of the harbor. Right now they’re experiencing a severe water shortage. The processing plants have cut their water usage in half, and we were asked to keep our showers short. Drinking water has to be boiled, and the whole town is on edge. If the water level in the resevoir drops any more, then the water supply for the entire town will be shut off. The fish processing plants would have to shut down operations. Quite a crisis.

I’m regretting somewhat leaving the ‘official’ tour. I miss Tobin and Christa and everyone else. The scenery from the ferry is wonderful, but I rather enjoyed staying in the EuroVan. I miss my flannel sheets and beautiful wool blankets. And I miss the conversations on the CB about everything from where we would camp that evening to Indonesian politics.

I’m also a little sad that the tour is winding down. Life on the road is rather nice, and I’m not ready for it to end.


P.S. Jorge, who burnt himself quite badly starting a fire, is now almost completely healed. He had some patches of new pink skin, but the burn seems to have peeled off almost entirely. (Too bad his goatie didn’t burn off as well… he would be much cuter without it 🙂


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